For all the game’s glories, it does fall victim to some of the pitfalls that are actually rather rare in shooters. Matchmaking between players is rarely very fair, with the game taking the unusual choice of not balancing teams between matches – so a string of wins or losses on the spin is not uncommon. It’s not as though the system doesn’t have enough time to reassign players between games either, as the 80-second wait between matches is far too long in my opinion to wait to jump back into the action. Being able to choose servers on console is a pretty nice touch, with the connection/hit detection feeling great in the game (if only subconsciously) because of it. However, I’ve ran into a few problems with the game connecting to far away servers and giving me connections that are from ideal. Having to go all the way to the main menu and wait for the game to search for my ideal server is a nuisance I’d rather do without. Private lobby functionality was just added via update on Monday, but you still can’t go into a match on your own to figure out the best wall running routes etc., which is something I normally do when I get a new multiplayer game to give me an edge in combat. I’ve also ran into the odd glitch during games which are annoying – such as spawning without a HUD or any running/jumping ability. It only ever lasts for one life, but it really shows how disadvantaged you are if you don’t capitalise on the game’s fast-paced movement to the full. These gripes are all minor, and none really spoil the experience in the way that some game-breaking elements of other games do.
Although the gameplay is fantastic, the selections of weapons and abilities are rather weak compared to the other top shooters out there. There are only 10 primary weapons and 3 sidearms for the pilot to choose from – which makes matches slightly more one-dimensional and repetitive. I have almost exclusively used the R101C-Carbine whilst I’ve played, and I’ve been very successful with it. I see no reason to switch to another weapon, other than on the odd occasion for a Hardpoint game where lots of close-quarters fighting is happening when you would switch to the CAR SMG or the EVA-8 shotgun. Similarly, the choice of kits (perks) for your character are rather dull and uninspiring, with effects that are barely noticeable in play. Each pilot can choose one of several abilities, and these are also rather redundant. The Cloak ability is far-and-away the most used, and renders the user almost invisible apart from when moving – which has certainly accounted for some of the more annoying deaths I’ve had in Titanfall. Burn cards, single use power-ups that last for one life, are the closest thing the game has to a new and game-changing ability – but I never remember to use them when I die and respawn. I’m too busy with the game at hand to remember that they’re at my disposal. I can understand that the development team probably played it rather safe with these elements of the game to stop the playing community moaning about things being overpowered constantly, but they have missed an opportunity to create a more addictive and interesting playing experience by doing so.
These little flaws stop Titanfall from being a killer app as of yet. I really enjoy playing it, but it’s not quite got that special something that makes it hopelessly addicting. It’s a game I can enjoy for a little while, a couple of games or more, and then go offline contented. I’ll play a lot of Titanfall, for sure, but without many different set-ups or game modes to try, it could get stale quicker than it should. Being a game that straddles two console generations, the aim of course was really to get something out there that showcases what could be done. For the first game from Respawn Entertainment, though, it’s a wonderful achievement – especially given the stresses and strains that the team went through to bring us the game (which are outlined brilliantly in Geoff Keighley’s interactive book Final Hours of Titanfall). The game has been a success on every front, and that will set them up brilliantly for the inevitable sequel – which I think will be a game that truly shows of the creative and technical genius of the people at Respawn.
I’m now on the cusp of being a second generation pilot, with around 13 hours of Titanfall under my belt – and I’m nowhere near done with it. It’s a tremendous game that is a lot of fun to play. Although it’s not quite toppled the tree it fell from yet, the seeds of a new gaming giant are here and I’m already eagerly awaiting the next iteration of what could be the next Titan of the industry.